The Bruins wrapped up a very successful five-game homestand (their longest of the season), 4-0-1 after a 3-2 overtime win vs. the Blue Jackets Thursday at TD Garden.
Milan Lucic blocked a shot then skated in alone on a breakaway and scored with 48.6 seconds left. His team-leading eighth goal of the season was unassisted and surprisingly it represented the first OT game-winner of his NHL career. It seems like a long time since Boston (12-5-1) fell 3-2 in a shootout to Dallas last Tuesday to open the homestand.
“I was hoping that he (Sergei Bobrovsky) would stay in the net so he had to make a decision,” said Lucic. “I was able to block a shot then got a lucky bounce to gather the puck. We had talked between periods about ending the homestand on the right note.”
Chad Johnson (32 saves) made only his third start of the season for Boston and his first appearance at TD Garden as a Bruin. He understandably had some rust beacuse he hadn’t played in a game since Nov. 2 (at Islanders) but he seemed to pick it up in the third and overtime when his teammates needed the boost. Columbus (6-10-2) scored first as Blake Comeau finished a one-timer in the first period. Boston answered late in the frame as Zdeno Chara’s shot from the point was deflected in off Loui Eriksson’s skate.
Shawn Thornton put the Bruins up 2-1 in the second period with a snipe past Bobrovsky (28 saves). Nick Foligno tied it after Johnson gave up a juicy rebound in the slot. Lucic’s heroics handed Boston a four-game win streak heading into Ottawa (7-7-4) Friday (7:30, NESN), the beginning of a three-game road trip. The Bruins don’t return home until next Thursday vs. St. Louis.
A key to Boston’s turnaround has been their penalty kill which hasn’t allowed a goal in its last 26 opportunities.
“We were really disappointed vs. New Jersey (Oct. 26, when they allowed 4 power play goals) so every game is a new challenge,” said head coach Claude Julien. “Guys are taking pride in it (the penalty kill streak) and want to prolong it as long as we can.” What they'll be saying: It is still very early but this was a game that the Bruins might not have won a few weeks ago. At times, they seemed disinterested but picking up two points was vital against an inferior team like the Blue Jackets. Speaking of Columbus, you won’t find a much bigger disappointment in the NHL than them. They nearly made the playoffs last season, Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy and they forked over a big deal to former Bruin Nathan Horton (currently out following shoulder surgery). Boston averted a major crisis after David Krejci fell awkwardly headfirst into the boards in the first period. He left for the rest of the frame and had to sit in the quiet room but he was back on the ice to start the second period. Torey Krug continued his strong play, recording points in five straight games (2 goals, 3 assists) after another assist this evening. The ironic part about Eriksson picking up his third goal is that none of them have come on real quality shots. If he can ever get his shooting on track, look out. Rask will be back in goal for the Bruins on Friday but this win should give Johnson some confidence moving forward when Boston will need him more often. With back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday, Johnson is sure to get another start in one of those (at Hurricanes and at Rangers).
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter:@RichSlate